Close Friends

Global survey shows 58% of people don’t know what social networking is
by: Jerry Liao

Almost everybody nowadays are into social networking. Ask the people you know and most if not all will tell you that they maintain or at least have maintained their own MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Multiply and other social networking site accounts. Why not, its very popular and its a great way of gaining new friends.

That is why when I was a bit surprise to come across this study made by global market intelligence firm Synovate.

Across 17 markets of the world, well over half the population (58%) do not know what social networking is, according to a study released today by leading global market intelligence firm, Synovate. Global head of media research for Synovate, Steve Garton, said the survey was conducted to explore some of the myths and facts that have built up around the online social networking phenomena.

“We spoke with over 13,000 respondents aged 18-65 years in 17 markets around the world to find out who’s connected and who’s not, as well as attitudes and online behaviours. Some of what we found surprised us, like more than a third of social networkers say they are losing interest in social media. And how many people do not even know what it is” Garton explained: “When you’re in the world of marketing — reading about it, planning campaigns, researching people — it’s sometimes easy to overlook the basics. So we started our study by simply asking ’do you know what online social networking is?’. “And that’s where our first myth was debunked. It turns out social networking is not taking over the world. Well, not yet anyway” Across the 17 markets surveyed, 42% of people know what online social networking is, which leaves 58% in the dark. either saying ’no’ or ’don’t know’. Who’s in the in-crowd?

The Synovate survey also looked into who were members of sites, or not, and which sites they belonged to. Perhaps the biggest out-take here is the debunking of myth number two. Social networking is definitely not US-centric. Overall, 26% across the markets surveyed are members of social networking sites. This peaked with the Netherlands at 49%, United Arab Emirates (UAE) at 46%, Canada at 44% and the US at 40% (though keep in mind that’s 40% of a huge population).
Sites of choice
The survey then asked social networkers to name the sites they belong to. Some markets seemed to favour multiple memberships and some seemed to stick to one or two major ones. The markets where social networking aficionados favour signed up for many sites are UAE, India, Indonesia, and Bulgaria. Showing the vast array of social networking niches, the open-ended question about site membership attracted responses naming around 150 sites across the 17 markets surveyed, but naturally some sites stood out as more popular. Almost unanimously, 91% of Japanese social networkers are on a Japanese-language site called mixi. Synovate’s Managing Director of Japan, Rika Fujiki, points out that attitudes and thinking on social networking are impacted by the site that created the boom in each market.

Privacy and predators
The survey was not all about debunking myths. It also confirmed facts. Like, privacy concerns and fear of strangers remain barriers to complete online comfort for a great many of our respondents. Overall, just over half the respondents who are members of social networking sites (51%) agreed that online social networking has its dangers. The Brazilians were the most nervous about online social networking with 79% agreeing there is danger, followed by the US (69%) and Poland (62%). Least concerned are Indians on 19%.

Nervy networkers’ biggest concerns were lack of privacy (37%) closely followed by lack of security for children (32%). The Dutch were the most concerned about privacy at 54% and lack of security for children was the biggest worry for Americans with 62% of respondents nominating it. We also asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “I feel comfortable giving out personal details on social networking sites” and found that this makes most people, even those who are social networkers, uncomfortable. Of the group who are members of social networking sites, only 26% are comfortable giving out personal details. This is led by 71% of Serbians and 57% of Indians.

Poking around social media attitudes
In a series of attitudinal statements we asked whether people agreed or disagreed with statements about communication, language and friendship. The findings well and truly explode the myth that online social networking is all-consuming. Steve Garton says that respondents who are members of social networking sites have a balanced on- and offline existence. “Most people online, regardless of culture, have a very strong appreciation of being in the real world. Their attitudes and behaviour show us that the virtual world of social networking can complement relationships, but not replace them. There is no substitute for real life, real friends and real relationships”

Some of the findings were:
– Forty percent of people who engage in social networking agree that online communication can be just as meaningful as face-to-face communication, versus 26% of people who are not members of any of these sites.
– When asked if they agree with the statement “Online social networking is better than not interacting at all”, it was not surprising that members of social networking sites are far more likely to agree (75%) than non-members at 51%. Highest agrees among social networkers are France (86%), Indonesia (84%) and the US and Russia (both 83%).
– Among social networkers in the markets surveyed, almost half (46%) agree that it is easier to make friends online than in person. Only 28% of non-social networkers agreed.
– And who’s losing interest? When asked if they agree with the statement “I am losing interest in online social networking”, 36% of the social networking site members were in the affirmative; led by Japan (55%), Slovakia (48%), Canada (47%), Poland and the US (45%). Social networkers in Indonesia and France are the least likely to be losing interest in the activity (82% and 79% are going strong respectively).
– More than half the social networkers surveyed agreed that people’s language skills are deteriorating as a result of online social networking.
– Thirty seven percent of all people from the UAE, 35% of South Africans and 29% of Taiwanese agreed that they had more friends online than they have in the ’real’ world.
– Seventy-eight percent of social networkers agree that people are better off doing outdoor activities than spending time in front of a computer.

What this study shows is despite of its popularity, there’s still plenty of room and opportunity for social networking sites. But for it to continue to grow, certain aspects and concerns should be addressed. Also, the study indicates that social culture plays a very important role on how people use and interact using social networking sites.


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